The coronavirus pandemic has changed everything, including how employees view their employers and the work they do. It soon became apparent that many people weren’t getting what they wanted at work. By summer 2020, people were quitting their jobs in record numbers in what’s referred to as The Great Resignation.
Why would people leave their jobs during a global pandemic and economic crisis?
Each case is obviously unique, but a recent survey of workers who quit in summer 2020 found that people left their jobs most often because of burnout, a desire for more workplace flexibility, and to pursue a job at a more caring company.
In this post, we’ll dive into the ways employee expectations are evolving in a post-pandemic world and give employers tips for meeting those new expectations.
Here’s how employee expectations are changing after COVID-19
Today’s workers crave a more even balance between their professional and personal lives and will favor companies that are willing to accommodate their personal needs and preferences.
Remote work and schedule flexibility should be standard
Forced to work remotely during the pandemic for their health and safety, many professionals realized their time away from the office could be just as productive as eight hours spent sitting at a desk.
Remote work also made it easier to juggle personal responsibilities during the day, even if it meant working a little later in the afternoon. In other words, workers want the freedom to take 30 minutes in the middle of the day to pick up a sick child from school or work four 10-hour days instead of the standard five-day week.
Now, employees are expecting companies to offer flexible work arrangements and hybrid work models that allow them to have more control over their schedules.
Employers who hold on to the traditional 9-to-5 office approach will likely have a hard time attracting and retaining talented workers who have embraced remote work.
Employees need a clear mission to stay motivated
What are your company’s mission and values? How does each worker help you accomplish your company’s mission and honor its values?
If you can’t answer those questions for your company and every employee, it’s time to take a look at your mission statement.
Workers need to know why what they do matters, and leaders need to convey a clear message that lets people know what they’re working toward.
On a large scale, employees want to know what their company is trying to accomplish and why that’s important. They’re paying attention to what executives are saying and care about where the organization is headed in the future.
On a personal level, employees want to know why their contributions are important to the bigger picture.
Keeping employees engaged requires clear and consistent communication. Leaders can keep staff up-to-date about what’s happening with weekly newsletters and email recaps. Smaller teams can give shoutouts to employees who make big accomplishments.
Employees gravitate toward career growth opportunities
Many professionals have reported feeling like their careers are on hold as the world figures out how to navigate the pandemic and new normal.
A recent employee survey by Doodle found that nearly half of respondents said they weren’t getting enough training, coaching, or mentoring, according to Inc Magazine.
Today’s workers look for companies that offer opportunities to move up the ladder, transfer locations, or learn new skills.
Workers are much less likely to accept a job that doesn’t offer room for growth. That’s because employees now realize they need to keep their skills sharp if they want to remain competitive to keep their job and achieve their larger professional goals.
Employers should plan on prioritizing mentorship programs and regular training sessions to help employees build their skills and stay engaged. Meet with employees one-on-one to discuss their career goals and how the company can support them.
Tips for employers after the pandemic
The pandemic has opened our eyes to a lot of things, including how we treat our employees and coworkers. Workers are no longer afraid of speaking up or leaving jobs that disregard their personal needs and goals.
Here are a few ways business leaders can show workers that they matter:
Talk to your employees about their needs
The pandemic has inspired leaders to think more inclusively when making decisions to get input from more people across the organization.
That’s important because companies often miss the mark when it comes to meeting employee expectations, which can destroy morale and lead to burnout over time. A survey by the IBM Institute for Business Value found that 80% of executives said their companies supported employee physical and emotional health while only 46% of employees agreed.
However, leaders are making an effort to get better.
A survey of human resources professionals found that business leaders across all industries are increasingly making an effort to learn about their employees. Managers are asking workers about their personal situations, goals, and ways the company can accommodate their needs in the workplace, according to Forbes.
Inclusive, compassionate leadership does require more time and communication, but the payoff is worth it. Employers who are able to find ways to accommodate workers so they can perform well can get better results while keeping workers happy.
Focus on performance management rather than hours at work
Many organizations measure a worker’s labor input by the number of hours he or she clocks every week.
With remote work becoming more common, employers need to rely less on the clock and more on results to make sure workers are doing their fair share.
That means employers will need to focus more on regular performance management and less on scheduling to hold workers accountable. Performance management is an ongoing process of evaluating worker performance and setting new goals for the future.
Employees could be measured on completing tasks, meeting deadlines, and week-to-week improvement over the number of hours they worked. Managers will need to review progress regularly and communicate clear and consistent expectations.
Bring people together for meaningful team-building exercises
Though working remotely can give workers more control over their time and work habits, it also makes it harder for them to get to know coworkers and managers.
Employees need to form meaningful connections with each other to effectively collaborate and overcome challenges, but cheesy team-building exercises or lackluster coffee meetups probably won’t be enough to get people to connect.
Instead, think of activities that can bring people together and spark interesting conversations. Invite your staff to more industry events, volunteer as a group in your community, or host video chats where workers give a 10-minute presentation about something they’re passionate about.
Make proactive changes for employee wellbeing
Employers have learned through the pandemic how important it is to be agile and adapt to challenges when they arise, but the best leaders are able to spot future problems and address them before they turn into disasters.
For example, a survey from the Society for Human Resource Management found that nearly 3 in 5 U.S. businesses conduct pay equity reviews and 83% of the organizations that conduct reviews adjust salaries and pay according to their findings.
Managers who take the time to learn their employees’ goals and priorities will be able to proactively create a workplace that’s accommodating and productive for everyone.
COVID-19 has permanently changed the way employees think about work and prioritize what’s important to them. The Great Resignation has also made it clear that employees aren’t afraid to leave jobs that are unfulfilling to pursue other opportunities.